In 2019, 5 Food Security Conversations were held across Grey Bruce facilitated by Kimberly Edwards with the Grey Bruce Sustainability Network. This was a partnership between the Poverty Task Force’s Food Security Action Group and the Grey Bruce Health Unit. It was funded by the United Way of Bruce Grey.
Local conversations were hosted by food banks and engaged a wide range of community members to discuss their local food systems and envision changes for their community. The project observed a variety of community opportunities to respond to food insecurity. Read more about these in the Full Project Report or individual community conversations:
We formalized a Community Gardens Network between community gardeners in Grey Bruce which will exchange more technical expertise under the leadership of Simona Freibergova.
And we facilitated more food banks to sign up to the Good Food Organizations initiative – a project of Community Food Centres Canada. The initiative supports food security organizations by increasing their capacity to offer healthy and dignified food programs.
The Food Security Action Group (FSAG), a working group of The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force, and the Grey Bruce Sustainability Network will be working with local food security and food system stakeholders across both counties this spring to take action against food insecurity levels in several communities.
The FSAG will be hosting meetings in Dundalk, Wiarton, Kincardine, Saugeen Shores, and the Town of the Blue Mountains in April and May as part of a Food Security Hub Project funded by the United Way of Bruce Grey. These meetings will bring community organizations, municipal leaders, food producers, and community members to the table for action focused discussions on their communities food security needs. Stakeholders will work together to improve food security services for the community, strengthen their networks and collaborative efforts.
Household food insecurity occurs when a household’s access to food is inadequate or precarious because of inconsistent income or insufficient financial resources. Food insecurity is a good indicator of poverty in our communities. Currently 11% of households in Grey and Bruce County experience food insecurity. Children are at particular risk of negative effects from food insecurity, which is concerning given that 1 in 5 children across Grey County and Bruce County live in a low income household. Being food insecure has profound impacts on physical, mental and social well-being; and places a person at greater risk of becoming a high cost user of the healthcare system.
Despite the severity of the experience, only 1 in 5 food insecure households access traditional food charities. The Food Security Action Group supports the model of a Community Food Centre (CFC), or a hub model to better meet community needs. This model leverages the power of community and creates a sense of belonging that empower all community members to advocate for a better food system.
Community Food Centres (CFCs) or Hubs challenge the line between giver and receiver by giving everyone a place and inviting people with lived experience to be involved in program creation and delivery. Programs develop food literacy and can range from cooking classes to community gardens.
While large CFCs such as Toronto’s “The Stop” or Stratford’s “The Local” serve much larger populations, there are also local examples of how it can be done in the smaller communities of Grey Bruce.
Meaford’s Golden Town Outreach, has made important policy changes and partnerships and has added a variety of programs such as a “gleaning” program where volunteers will harvest excess fruit and share the harvest 3 ways – with the owner, with the volunteers, and with the food bank.
And CMHA Grey Bruce has launched their Fresh Roots food forest and catering services, and is getting ready to open the Fresh Roots Café. The Fresh Roots initiative uses a social enterprise model to support wellness among participants and in the community and creates employment for individuals with mental health concerns.
Town of Blue Mountains, Tuesday, April 30th, 12:30-3:00pm, Beaver Valley Community Centre – 58 Alfred Street, Thornbury RSVP Link
Kincardine, Friday, May 3rd, 12:30-3:00pm, Church of the Messiah – Kincardine Ministerial Food Bank – 421 Russell Street, Kincardine RSVP Link
Dundalk, Thursday, May 9th, 10:00-12:30pm, Erskine Community Health Centre – 90 Artemesia Street, Dundalk RSVP Link
Saugeen Shores, Tuesday, May 14th, 2:30-4:30pm, The Salvation Army – Port Elgin – 553 Bricker Street, Port Elgin RSVP Link
Wiarton, Monday, May 27th, 10:00-12:30pm, Wiarton Salvation Army Community Hub – 576 Edward Street, Wiarton RSVP Link
Public Health Dietician Laura Needham (left) and Jill Umbach, Planning Network Coordinator with Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force, discussed food security issues with Saugeen Shores councillors at their July 24 meeting. Councillors were asked to consider endorsing a Bruce Grey Food Charter to create a just, sustainable and secure food system.
SAU – The statistic that 14 to 17 per cent of children under 19 in Saugeen Shores live in poverty struck a chord with some Saugeen Shores councillors who were briefed on the work of the Food Security Action Group – part of the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force – at a July 24 town committee meeting.
For the past four years the Grey Bruce Poverty Task Force – politicians, 51 social agencies and community-based partners – have examined the root causes of poverty and identified barriers to change.
One of the main issues is food security – having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, appropriate and nutritious food – supported by a Food Charter that values health, social justice, culture, education, sustainable economic development and the environment.
Jill Umbach, Planning Network Coordinator with Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force, and Public Health Dietician Laura Needham asked councillors to consider endorsing the Food Charter, which acknowledges the basic right to food, and is a commitment to work to towards a “vibrant, sustainable, food secure community,” Councillors were also asked to reconsider the way they “treat people who don’t have food.”
She said the 21 food banks in Grey Bruce do not address the main cause of food insecurity, so they need to change the “cultural way that we treat people who don’t have food,” so food banks aren’t the “go-to place for people with low income.”
“Rather than looking at a charitable situation all the time… we want those people to actually access other systems – whether it is connecting with fresh produce from a farmer that’s got excess, or whether its connecting to community gardens that are good for mental health but [where they] also can access fresh food….” Umbach said.
Food banks are still needed for crisis back-up, but Umbach said low-income people need better access to food that involves them more in the food system, including community gardens and school snack programs.
Coun. Mike Myatt said the 17 per cent poverty rate for those under-19 in Grey Bruce “struck a chord” and asked the source of the statistic and if the number was broken down further to give a Saugeen shores number.
Umbach said it was Census Canada data estimating that in Saugeen Shores, the average rate would be 14 to 17 per cent because the economy is stronger in Bruce than in Grey County. After the meeting Umbach said the 17 per cent figure represents the number of people under 19 in a family of four with annual income less than $42,000.
Coun. Neil Menage asked if people could legally give away surplus food – he’d had to compost an over-abundant crop of grapes. Umbach said it is “totally acceptable” noting there are Second Harvest programs and they are all noted on a food asset map. Menage also suggested they could develop community gardens in local passive parks.
Saugeen Shores Coun. Dave Myette thanked Umbach and Needham for “planting the seeds” to develop food security, and said he’d bring a motion to endorse the Food Charter at the future town council meeting.
In related news…
Umbach said the first Grey Bruce Poverty Task Force, Bridges Out of Poverty program – Getting Ahead – holds its first sessions in Port Elgin, starting on August 14 at the Community Housing Centre.
The program offers people receiving Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program benefits, an eight-week program that looks at generational and situational poverty and looks at the resources available for low-income people in the community to deal with housing, transportation and social issues. Anyone interested should contact their worker for a referral. She said some of the graduates of the Port Elgin Bridges Out of Poverty program would be invited to speak to Saugeen Shores Council at a future date about their experiences.